- My Navy Days! -

-William (Bill) Irwin -


William Irwin, better known as Bill, entered the navy through the draft on February 1, 1943 at age 23 and was directed to report to the receiving station in Newark, NJ. At the time he weighed 117 pounds and had a 24-inch waist. His description of the process was that it was one of those situations where you had to "lose your cloths" then parade in front of all kinds of people

until you came to a Y in the receiving line. It was at this point that those going into the army went left and those into the navy, marines or coast guard to the right. Bill said his choice of which direction to take was based on making certain he had a place to sleep at nights and not out in a field someplace.

He reported aboard the Spangler as a Machinist Mate 2nd Class (MM2) when the ship was launched at the the Defoe Shipbuilding Co. yards in Bay City, Michigan on July 15, 1943, traveled with it there through the Great Lakes to Chicago where the Spangler participated in the Treasury-Navy Tribune Exhibition on Sept. 24, 1943, then on down the Missouri River to the New Orleans Navy Shipyard for the ship's commissioning on Oct. 31. 1943.

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1943 Commissioning Photo
1943 Commissioning Photo
Photo of ship in Chicago, IL 1943

Bill says from the time the ship left New Orleans until it returned to the states and entered San Pedro Harbor on Sept 28, 1945, they went 20-months without entering a port, going into a town or seeing town people. Here he's obviously speaking of normal liberty ports. Liberties, when they could get one, were typically shore parties on a beach somewhere with a couple of bottles of near-beer.

Of course there were moments of other fun, as a lot of the guys aboard in 1957 well testify to. Bill was inducted into the Domain of the Golden Dragon when the Spangler crossed the equator on Jan. 27, 1944 and also into the Domain of the Golden Dragon (180th Meridian) the same year.

 Order of the Deep Card

1944 Domain of The Golden Dragon Card

1944 Order of the Deep Card

1944 Christmas Dinner Menu

Bill made rank of Chief (MMC) in 1945, but elected, nevertheless, to leave the service shortly after returning stateside. His decision, he explained, stemmed in part from the fact he had enough points and was eligible to return to civilian life, but it also came about from frustration over a decision passed down from LCDR Edwards via LT. McDugall. This was the beginning of an overhaul period when the Spangler replaced it's three-inch guns with 5-inchers. Edwards wanted the ship cleaned "immediately" and any extra stuff put on the pier. The extra stuff just happened to be contractor repair equipment and supplies. Irwin knew that carrying out the commander's orders violated regulations, so he broached LT. McDugall with his concerns. McDugall's response, "If Edwards said do it, it will be done!" Irwin came back with "If my recommended guidance isn't considered more worthwhile, then I want off the ship!" McDougall simply responded "Okay!"

This wasn't Bill's first frustration, by the way, over a decision passed down through McDougall. He tells of the time the ship was in for engine repair (Siapan, I think) and both engines were dismantled. McDougall came down with instructions from the captain that he wanted to get underway immediately. Bill responded that it was impossible, that it would take at least 50-hours to get the engines up and running. McDougall said he didn't care, "You've got 10-hours to get one of them up and running!" Ten-hours later the ship was lumbering out of port on one engine, and sure enough, it no sooner got out of the harbor when the engine broke down. So they set there without an operating engine bouncing around at sea until they could be towed back into port.

Few can recall their days in the service with clarity that Bill can, especially that far back, not only for events but for names, places and faces. He can fascinate you with stories of life at sea during the war years, when often times he and his shipmates had little choice but to rely on no more than creativity and imagination to keep the ship moving until they could reach a repair ship or jerry-rig something borrowed from another ship. These memories need to be recorded but rather than jumble them together and mess up on one that only he can tell, I'll hold off on those stories until they can be recorded to tape or in writing.

His memories are punctuated with humorous ones as well, a good example is the one about of the ship's steward in the officer's mess, William Mayberrry StM2c. Mayberry, as Bill tells it, had the responsibility every morning of cleaning the officer's head (toilet area), but one morning ran out of cleaning material so used what he thought would do the job. Shortly afterwards the officers set down for lunch, one of the junior officers suddenly got up and left the room. Not long later another hurriedly got up and left. Both rused down to the doctor's office to see why the cheeks of their rear was covered in a rash. The doc took one look, chuckled and called Mayberry down and asked "Did you clean the officers head this morning?" "Yes Sir," came back the response. "And what did you use?" "I was out of my other cleaning supplies so I used a lye to clean the toilet seats." Bill noted that Mayberry was transferred from the ship a few days later.

He also told of the time following a new ensign's arrival when the ensign had duty detail one night at the gangway. He said "the Ensign was playing with his new toy, a 45-caliber pistol, when the thing accidentally fired off." When asked if the ensign hurt himself, Bill said, "No, he just hit the deck!"...The ensign that evening has a slightly different take on the story. Read his side of the story here.

Yet another good story concerned the time the ship ran out of meat. They had gone about three days without any, so when they anchored one evening near an island, Pelelieu (I think), the crew threw scraps of food over the side to draw fish then used gaffing hooks to snare the larger ones and toss them back aboard. Several of the cooks stood by to tell the good fish from the bad and the bad were then cut up an used for bait.

Some of Bill's Memorbilia

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1945 Letter from LCDR H. M. Edwards to the crew.

Photo of Bill's Discharge Card
Photo of Bill's Reservist Card

Bill's Discharge Card

Bill's Discharge Card

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